Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
Last week I finally had a chance to watch the recent movie about Mister Rogers, starring Tom Hanks. The story reminded me of Mister Rogers’ practice of asking people to pray for him. He always seemed to ask the least-expected people to pray for him–those who had already lived a difficult life or those who were deep in the midst of suffering. It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? To ask someone to pray for you when they have enough going on in their life to pray about? Surely it should have been the other way around, with Mister Rogers offering to pray for those who were suffering; that’s what most of us do.
Mister Rogers believed that God draws closest to us in our times of suffering, so those in the midst of their own trials, and those who had experienced a lifetime of struggle, were likely closest to God. They had an access to God’s presence, God’s grace, that was available as they suffered alongside the savior who had suffered for all of us. Therefore, they have the power to bring others into that presence, that grace, through their prayers.
I think of this beautiful application of scripture as I look around the world these days. Suffering abounds, much more than usual; the sick and the dying, those who have lost a loved one, or lost a job, those who are already marginalized but now feel left for dead. It is painful to see such suffering and feel such powerlessness to help. Even those who are not facing dire circumstances are still suffering with increased feelings of depression, struggles with working and family life in close quarters, and uncertainty about the future. The truth is, God is close to all of us right now, and closest to those whose world is crumbling around them. When we walk the path of the one who suffered, he walks it with us, all the way to the end. And even in the midst of our suffering, we have the power to hold others in God’s light, where love overcomes fear, and hope burns a hole in the dark cover of uncertainty.
I am holding you in the light today, First Church, praying for you as I ask you to pray for me, too. I pray that you are reminded of God’s presence with you this day, this moment, and from that, take the courage you need for another step in the journey. We’re in it together.
Grace and Peace to you.
With great love,